A School by Any other Name?


As we have noted on this blog before, the field of education is not immune to needing logo design and branding in order to be successful. This means that occasional rebranding measures are needed. The S.C. Johnson Graduate School of Management at Cornell University obviously knows this fact and is revamping their image to create a more recognizable and well branded entity for current and potential students.

The name of the school is certainly unwieldy, which is part of the problem. The new logo design will encourage people to call the school by a much more wieldy name: Johnson, or Johnson at Cornell University. While the color palette, centuries old school crest, and ultra-traditional font will remain the same, the word Johnson will be placed in large letters above the name of the university.

As most management students know, having a short and simple name is an essential part of building a brand. This management school should be showing its knowledge of business by having a brand that follows the rules, and these changes are a powerful first step in the right direction.

Why does Cornell need a brand? First, the Ivy League school, like most others, always wants more applications. This allows the education institution to choose the best candidates and maintain their position at the top. A better brand with more prestige also helps the school to attract better faculty and employees. Last, if businesses are more aware of the school and the quality of its graduates, they will be more likely to recruit there, giving graduates more job opportunities and further adding to the prestige of the institution. Like all universities, Johnson has a marketing staff dedicated to this cause.

The hope is that Johnson will achieve the easy identification and high prestige of other top schools in the field, including Wharton and Kellogg. One thing that these schools all have in common is a one word nickname by which students can identify and remember them.

Habits are not easy to change, and encouraging people in the community to call you by a different name can feel a little contrived. This is where the logo design came in. It is hard to look at the new logo design and not think, simply, “Johnson”. The rest of the logo design is just details. This is exactly the feeling that the school wanted to create.

There has been a small amount of outcry, especially from former students who point out that the logo guidelines for the school dictate that words with all capital letters should not be used, nor should any writing be larger than the University name. However, the university obviously felt that the new identity was attractive enough to merit breaking their own rules. New guidelines are being written right now to avoid any conflict.

This has been a long process for the school, one that entailed talking not just to students and faculty, but to students and professors who were invited to attend or work at the school but opted to go somewhere else.